Having spent many months running all over Mumbai, day and night, I can confidently recommend the following 10 places, activities and experiences. No matter how long you’re in the city, do your best to enjoy a well-rounded visit: you will be blown away! In no particular order:
1. Dress up and dine out in Bandra
Many of Mumbai’s most fabulous international restaurants are located in the suburb of Bandra. Head out to enjoy Italian, Thai or any other cuisine, and you might get lucky and spot a celebrity at one of Bandra’s hot spots.
2. Experience an eye-opening tour of Dharavi
The Dharavi slum is spread over two square kilometres and houses over a million people. However, it’s not exactly what you think. Take an enlightening tour of the area and support incredible local charities while you’re at it. Check out www.realitygives.org for more information.
3. Taste real South Indian cuisine
Madras Cafe at Kings Circle in central Mumbai has been around since 1932, serving up the best idlis, dosas and other southern specialties. Make sure to try their delicious filter coffee: a steal at Rs 15, whereas real coffee at any other high-end coffee shop will start at Rs 78!
4. Find Bollywood wannabes and shopping bliss in Lokhandwala
Lokhandwala market in Andheri is amazing for both western and Indian clothes and jewelery. Go there to see lots of aspiring actors and models, waiting for their big break.
5. Enjoy an evening walk along the legendary Marine Drive
Possibly the best place to be in Mumbai between 5 and 9PM is Marine Drive, where thousands of people of all ages come to walk, enjoying the weather and the view.
6. See a Bollywood movie in theatres
Bollywood cinema is an integral part of Mumbai culture. Go to a historic theatre in South Mumbai like the Regal in Colaba, and check out the latest ‘picture’.
7. Drink fresh juice, eat snacks or taste Banarsi paan
Mumbai is famous for its street stalls, featuring all kinds of fresh snacks and juice. Try any puri: bhel puri, pani puri, dahi puri, the list goes on. Cool your tongue with a sweet, fresh juice like mosambi or watermelon, and try Indian mouth-freshener paan if you’re brave enough!
8. Break the dance floor at a five star hotel
Mumbai is amongst the global cities that never sleep. The nightclubs that stay open the latest (think 4 or 5AM) are located in beautiful hotels. Dance like crazy to the hottest western and Bollywood music, but make sure you have a couple of drinks before arriving, to be gentle on your wallet.
9. Visit a Temple, Mosque, Cathedral, Gurudwara or all of the above
Spirituality in all of its forms can be found in Mumbai. Visit as many places of faith as you can to get an understanding of the different beliefs that make up the feeling of the cosmopolitan, multicultural city.
10. Take the local train across the entire maximum city
Any time spent in Mumbai is incomplete without taking a trip in the local suburban train. The train runs from North to South Mumbai, and is as crowded, smelly and full of intensity, as you would hope of any authentic Mumbai experience. Take the train and see for yourself.
Bronwyn McBride is from Vancouver, Canada. After years of circus school in Montreal and Quebec city, and then a long summer in Varanasi, she now lives in Mumbai. Besides working in communications and fundraising for an educational NGO, going for runs and sampling Mumbai’s fabulous variety of street food, Bronwyn loves to observe and write on all facets of Mumbai’s diversity, beauty and struggle. Her personal blog can be found at www.littlebirdbombay.com